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The Gardener’s Dirt June 2009

JUNE 2009

The Gardener’s


Information you can dig into.

North Carolina State University
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Johnston County Center
2736 NC 210 Highway * Smithfield, NC 27577
919 989-5380
Shawn Banks
Extension Agent
Agriculture—Consumer Horticulture

 In this Issue
Feature Article
Spotlight Plant
Insect Investigator
Gardening To-Do
This newsletter offers timely information for your outdoor living spaces.  Addressing the most common questions ranging from container gardening, tree pruning, wildlife management, to fire ant control, insect identification and lawn establishment.

Feature Story Banner

Controlling Weeds in Summer Lawns

Shawn Banks

Extension Agent – Consumer Horticulture

I am still in search of the perfect lawn.  In my opinion that would be a lawn with no weeds, soft to the touch, nice dark green color, and even growth.  I was at a trade show this spring when I thought I’d found just such a lawn.  After speaking with the vendor it turned out to be artificial turf.  It looked so real it was hard to tell it wasn’t the real thing.  It would be perfect for a small area, but not for an entire yard.

Everybody has to fight weeds in their lawn, even me.  I thought I was winning the battle last fall, until the winter weeds came in and showed me I was wrong.  Now the winter weeds are on their way out, here come the summer weeds again. 

This year I am determined to win this battle.  What do I plan to do? 

The first thing was to take a soil sample and send it off to the soil test lab in Raleigh to be tested.  This test is free (technically it is paid for by tax dollars).  It has been a few years since the soil was tested the last time.  When the soil test comes back, it will tell me what needs to be done in the way of lime and fertilizer.

Adding the required lime and fertilize to my lawn will help it fill in the canopy.  I may also need to spray an herbicide to knock down any weeds that have already come up.  Warm season grasses like Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, or Centipedegrass spread by stolens (above ground stems) and/or rhizomes (below ground stems).  This allows them to fill in gaps in the turf canopy.  I have Centipedegrass in the front yard and Bermudagrass in the back yard.

Many summer annual weeds, like crabgrass, need sunlight in order to germinate.  Once the lawn has developed a dense canopy, few weeds will be able to penetrate it.

I went to this really cool website called TurfFiles.  It was put together by the NC State University Agronomy Department, specifically the people who deal with turfgrass.  There is a ton of really great information on this site.  There I found Lawn Maintenance Calendars for each type of grass grown in NC.  These calendars have information on when to fertilize, what height to mow, and everything else needed to grow the perfect lawn. 

Another great feature on TurfFiles is the turf and weed identification tool.  This tool helps identify what weed you have by the plants characteristics.  By identifying the weeds I can better target my control measures to eliminate that weed.

I am hoping that a happy, healthy lawn will choke out the weeds for me this year.  Of course that may mean a lot more mowing grass.  Oh well, I can use the exercise, and my lawn area really isn’t all that large.

For more information on weed control in turfgrass, contact the Johnston County Master Gardeners at 989-5380 or jcemastergardener@gmail.com.

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  Spotlight Plant banner   
  brugmansia plant in flower
Brugmansia plant in flower
Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia arborea
brugmansia with double flower
Burgmansia with a
double flower
A small tree growing 6-15 ft in container and 35 ft in ground has softly hairy young stems, leaves, flower, and fruit. The leaf is ovate shaped and entire to coarsely toothed.  Brugmansia has a wide range of leaf forms and individual growth habits.

Large flowers (5-6.5 in.) are nodding. The fruit is 2.5 to 3.5 inches long with a round to egg-shaped appearance. It will flower continually through the growing season and self-pollinates. You must be PATIENT with them, allowing time for the plant to reach maturity before blooming.  The flower has a wide range of sizes, forms, shapes, and colors that can change drastically in appearance from one growing environment to the next.

Do NOT put them in full sun.  They do best when there is a lot of room for roots to grow.  Brugmansia grow best when using lots of ‘seasoned’ water (seasoned means it has sat in a bucket for at least 24 hours to let any chemicals evaporate), not tap water.  If you see significant wilting, have pale foliage, and/or your plant seems stressed or unhappy, try less sun.

The plant tolerates light frost and drought.  This tropical plant will over-winter in our area most years if given some protection in the form of leaves or mulch pilled around the base of the plant.  They will die back to the ground, but will usually come back from the ground each spring.

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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

June 25 – Summer Training and Pruning Workshop at the Central Crops Research Station, 13223 US 70 Business, Clayton from 6:30pm until 8:00pm.  Call 989-5380 to let us know you are coming.

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  Insect Investigator banner Japanese beetle grub with milky spore disease
Japanese beetle grub
with milkey spore disease

Popillia japonica


Japanese Beetle close up
Japanese beetle adult
Japanese beetles are about 1/2 inch long.  They are colored a shiny, metallic green with coppery brown wing covers that extend almost to the tip of the abdomen.  Small tufts of white hairs occur at the tip of the abdomen and along each side.  As the beetles eat flowers and foliage they leave only a lacy network of leaf veins.  The beetles feed on over 275 different species of shade and fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, small fruits, garden crops, and weeds.

Grubs are about 1 inch long when mature.  Japanese beetle grubs have two rows of spines, which form a “V” on the underside of the last abdominal segment, which distinguish it from other beetle grubs found in turf.  The beetle grubs feed on the roots of grasses and shrubs.  Japanese beetle grubs occur in lawns where they burrow through the soil consuming roots.  When large numbers of grubs are present, areas of dead grass may appear, especially during dry spells in September or early October. 

Adult Japanese beetles emerge as early as mid May in eastern North Carolina.  Peak emergence occurs in July. There is only one generation each year.  Dusting or spraying foliage with pesticide can protect flowers and ornamental plants. 

For a list of susceptibility of certain woody ornamentals to Japanese beetle damage see the Mississippi State study.
For more information on Japanese beetles and the damage they do see the following pages.

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     Gardening to-do Banner


  • Lawn under drought stressWhen do you water your lawn?  When the grass blades are just starting to curl and your footprints remain on the lawn when you walk on it.  Apply an inch of water in the early morning, this allows the lawn to dry during the day.  The ground is dry so cycling the irrigation applying a little at a time will allow the water to soak deep into the soil.
  • It’s a good time to plant new sod in damaged areas.  Get your soil tested first (we have free kits).
  • Grasses vary in their needs for nutrients, mowing height and watering. to learn how to best care for your grass type check out the Lawn Maintenance Calendar for your grass and learn how best to care for it, month by month …
  • o    Bermuda – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000016
  • o    Centipede – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000019
  • o    Zoysiagrass – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000020
  • o    Tall Fescue – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000017
  • This is NOT the time for planting or fertilizing fescue! Wait until the fall.
  • Mow fescue at a height of 3 – 3 1/2 inches to help it survive hot, dry periods.  It is a cool season grass that slows down in the summer and if cut too short the tender roots will be exposed to extreme heat which will certainly damage, if not kill, it.  It is also difficult for the fescue to recover from being cut too short as it is not actively growing at this time.  


  • Climbing rose in flowerPrune climbing roses after they bloom, then fertilize them to stimulate new growth. This summer’s growth carries next year’s buds, so keep the plants growing vigorously! Train long shoots horizontally to stimulate more branching. http://cetulare.ucdavis.edu/mg/Pruning%20Climbing%20Roses.pdf
  • As soon as their foliage dies, dig bulb clumps that have become crowded: daffodils, crocus, Dutch iris, etc. Divide and replant bulbs immediately, or store them in a cool, dry place for planting this fall. (Note: Tulips and Hyacinths generally don’t perennialize in our area because our spring and winter is too warm.)
  • Give plants room to grow. Pull/transplant excess seedlings of marigold, cosmos, zinnias, etc. Growing plants need room to develop.  Spacing plants properly reduces the risk of fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
  • Remove faded flowers.  Many annuals and perennials will stop blooming once they’ve started to set seed.  Dead heading or removing spent flowers will prolong the bloom period.
  • Pinch growing tips of ornamentals.  Pinching the growing tips will encourage compact, sturdy, branched growth with lots of blooms.
  • Protect plants from dehydration. Transplanting on overcast days, early in the morning, or late in the afternoon will reduce water loss in transplants.  keep newly-planted ornamentals well watered for the first several days.  Apply a 2-3″ layer of mulch to conserve water and keep roots cool.


  • Squashvine borer in squash vineSquash plants wilting? squash vine borers may be the culprit.  Check near the base of the plant for a small hole and a mass of greenish-yellow excrement.  Slitting open the stem may reveal the villain: a fat, white caterpillar.  It may be possible to save the plant by removing the caterpillar, then covering the injured vine with moist soil to encourage rooting.
  • Warmer temperatures and longer days send a signal to spring greens that it is time to flower (bolt).  Leaves generally do not taste as good when the plant starts to bolt.  Once this quick process starts, there is no turning back.  To delay bolting try the following – Cover spring salad greens with a cardboard box in mid afternoon.  Remove it after sunset and give the plants a slurp of water to cool them down. This procedure fools the plants into thinking the days are shorter than they actually are and can delay bolting by a couple of weeks.  –  Barbara Pleasant


  • ornamental peppersTropical natives make excellent additions to our gardens in the summer, with colorful foliage, bright flowers, and heat-loving constitutions. They can’t survive our winters, but we can try over-wintering our favorites indoors.  Ornamental peppers  and Jerusalem cherries are other heat-lovers. More exotic tropicals, such as Alternanthera (Joseph’s Coat), Plectranthus (with lovely gray felty leaves), and Acalypha (Copper Plant), are becoming available. Visit the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at NCSU to see first-hand how tropicals can spice up our summer gardens.
  • Mulch flower beds and vegetable gardens now to save on watering chores later.  The mulch you choose should be one you think enhances the beauty of your garden.  Find more information at: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-608.html
  • Keep outdoor potted plants watered; in the heat they lose a lot of moisture. If you’re going on vacation, ask a friend to check your plants regularly.  


  • Water houseplants as needed.  Do not allow them to dry out to the point of wilting, but watering too Antherium pink floweringoften will lead to root rot.  Watering needs will vary according to the size of the plant and the container it is in.
  • If moving plants outside for a summer vacation, move them slowly into the light.  If put directly into the light after being in the house all winter the sun will give them a sunburn and could kill the plants.
  • Remember to fertilize.  This is the time when most houseplants will be doing the most growing and will need the nutrients to stay green and healthy.
  • General Houseplant care: http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/hort/g06510.htm

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Got Questions? We’ve got answers!

If you have a gardening issue you would like to see addressed in this newsletter please let me know I will do what I can to get you the information you need.  Contact me by e-mail at shawn_banks@ncsu.edu or by phone at (919) 989-5380.

The Johnston County Master Gardener Volunteers are available Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 1 to 4 pm to answer questions as well.  They can also be contacted by phone at (919) 989-5380 or by e-mail at jcemastergardener@gmail.com

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